Next steps

The intro…

Welcome to this week’s blog!

I know what you’re thinking (ok, probably not but work with me here…), I said I probably wasn’t going to post out this week but here I am, a blogger blogging a blog.

What interesting is that I actually didn’t get a game in this last week because on Wednesday night (casual play night at my FLGS (JARGON ALERT!!)) we (that’s my family, not the guys from the store) decided to go and see the new Spider-Man film on opening night. Obviously I’m not going to give any spoilers, I’ll just say that it is absolutely epic and I HIGHLY recommend you go see it.

So very very good!

Anyway, there are a few reasons I’ve chosen to do one this week even though I’m now on leave for Christmas/New Year and normally don’t post when I’m off work (because – family time!).

Reason 1 is that the last week of work has been really quiet and that’s enabled me to get some time to write. Yay!

Reason 2 is that there may have been some sort of rules change announced by AMG last week. Seems like it might be important. Maybe. More on that in a minute.

Reasons 3 is because people are freaking awesome. Wait, you want me to expand on that one? Ok, you twisted my arm, I’ll start there.

It’s a topical meme!

In case you missed it , last week, after several (almost 6 I think?!) months of thinking, planning, organising and rather a lot of self-doubt, I launched on Patreon.

As I did when launching the blog, I made a conscious decision to enter into it with low-to-no expectations to keep pressure low to start with and see how it does. WOW, did those expectations get exceeded.

To think that a bunch of complete strangers (well, some are, some I’ve met!) from across the world believe in what I’m doing here enough to financially support whqat I’m doing here blows. My .Mind.

Booooooooooooooooom!

So I want to specifically say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who has signed up, especially as early adopters (you’ll find their names in the sidebar menu and at the bottom of the page!). As we go into 2022 I want to try and take things to the next level (whatever that looks like!?) and your support will help me do that.

If you’re reading and you aren’t a Patron and want to know more you can click here to check out the details. Please don’t feel pressured or obligated, I know times are tough for many people.

Alright, that’s the intro done. Let’s get to some ‘content’* shall we?

*I always hesitate to call my writing content for fear of raising people’s expectations. I often think of it more as brain vomiting onto my keyboard but that’s far more words and conjures rather vivid (and perhaps unwelcome!) images…

The main bit…

Alright, let’s deal with the elephant in the room, lets look at ‘Reason 2’ from the intro.

AMG did another stream.

The first thing I want to mention here is that, overall, and in my opinion based on what I’ve seen, the community reaction (Twitch chat aside…) has been less extreme (so far) than the last time AMG started dropping bombshells. And that’s good.

Whether that’s because admins and mods pre-emptively battened down the hatches or because lessons on behaviour were learned from last time I can’t really tell. Call me naively optimistic if you like but I’m just going to blindly believe it’s the second one and quickly move on.

But what about the changes themselves? Well, there’s certainly a lot to take in and I’m not going to go into massive detail here at this time because these rules are still in development, won’t be released for another 6-8 weeks and we don’t have the context of the accompanying points change.

Before I start I want to say that I HAVE watched the Twitch stream (there’s also a stream notes document compiled by Travis Johnson which is a good reference point but NOT substitute!) and trawled through several Facebook groups, Discord servers and Reddit posts to try and gauge opinions.

To say they’re mixed is an understatement. Much like before, some love the changes, some hate them and most fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

Something I found VERY interesting is that just 2 minutes into the stream the developers themselves referred to these rules as ‘X-Wing 2.5’ which is not only an indication but (what I see as) an admission as to how much is changing.

I like that their overall vision for the game is to make it more exciting and incentivise engagement and I applaud that sentiment. We’ve all had games where very little happens and it’s a bit dull. That said, it’s been a LONG while since I had one. And I’ve had recent games that were very exciting where the score ended up in the 30’s-40’s on each side. Close. Tense. Low scoring. Still good.

They put flesh on the bones of some changes that were mentioned in passing on their previous stream that they had been considering (like firing at range 0) and others which feel like they’re a bit out of the blue (like auto damage for hitting obstacles).

Much like with the ROAD (JARGON ALERT!!) changes, it’s really hard to tell how these new rules will affect the game in terms of gameplay without trying them out. Sure, we might have feelings about how we think things will be better or worse but the truth is we haven’t tried and we don’t know and what’s more, we’re still a little while out from being able to do so properly.

When you couple that with the introduction of the ban list, it’s actually impossible to know the overall effects in terms of gameplay until a ‘finished’ product (at least for the moment!) is fully and officially released to us, the customers.

It’s clear, then, that the vision that AMG have for the game is VERY different than what FFG left us with and I suppose the question for all of us has to be – is it still a game I want to play?

That is a very difficult question to ask yourself. I’ve seen various comments from people saying they’re going to quit the game, slim down their collection, stop buying new releases and things like that. I can understand these views, though I can’t say that I agree personally. We all have our own choices to make. This game definitely makes you feel things which gives us an attachment that’s hard to explain, and when the game gets ‘hurt’ (in our view), by extension, so do we and that can cause use to express things in a way that we normally might not.

I’m not talking about name calling and mud-slinging here by the way. It’s perfectly ok to be upset about the changes and have open and honest conversations about our feelings towards it. Insulting people is not helpful or constructive and has no place in these conversations.

I would also like to add that it’s ok to have an initial reaction and then totally change your mind about it. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite, it means you’ve put time in to think about things, consider other opinions you’ve heard and draw your own conclusions further down the line. I feel that someone being very vocally outraged (on either side of a debate) means painting yourself into a corner that’s quite hard to get out of later for reasons of pride.

I’m sure we’ve all seen it many times on social media over the last few years with pandemic related things (lockdowns, vaccinations, masks). I can’t think of a single instance of someone posting a passionately (or aggressively/inflamatory/accusation-ary?! Ok, that last one’s a stretch) worded, thinly veiled (or totally unveiled) verbal attack on someone/something/some group that has yielded a widely positive outcome or, more to the point, caused people with opposing views to change their mind.

If we replace ‘I’m right and you’re stupid’ with ‘Here’s why I think this, what do you think and why?’ then we’re in a MUCH better position to find common ground and agreement. It seems obvious doesn’t it. But the way that social media allows total anonymity or separation from consequence (by not having to face the person directly) seems to remove the filters that get us from the first statement to the second.

Food for thought I suppose.

Broadly speaking, opinion seems fairly evenly split. Liam Baker posted a poll in the UK/IRL…and Beyond! Facebook group (with commenting turned off. Very wise!) with 5 options ranging from hate it to love it. At time of posting the 2 ‘don’t like it’ options have 112 votes and the 2 ‘like it’ options have 125. The neutral option has 3, just for reference.

It’s pretty close. The ‘winning’ option (as of publishing) with 120 votes is the ‘I think they’re alright?’ one, leaning towards being ok but not over the moon. If you want to see where it’s at right now, this is the link.

There is one change though, above any other, that (potentially) breaks my heart.

‘If overlapping asteroid/debris/cloud, cannot attack, and skip perform action step’ (taken from the stream notes document)

Do you know who this affects?

DASH! AHH_AHHHHH! (y’know, like Flash)

Yep. My favourite pilot in my favourite ship.

Just to be clear, overlapping means touching it once landed.

In the chat when this was announced there were LOTS of people saying things like ‘put Dash back up by 20 points’ and ‘Dash FTW’. And I get it. The other obstacle changes make them way more harsh and he just gets to ignore ALL of that. Take an auto-damage from going over a rock? Nope, not Dash. Get ioned by going over a gas cloud? Not this Corellian!

So in that respect, yes, Dash becomes more powerful.

But.

Dash already can’t shoot if landed on an asteroid. That can be mitigated by opting not to take asteroids yourself, meaning at least half the obstacles on the board are fine for him to not care about. If not shooting while overlapped now extends to debris and clouds too then it’s a MASSIVE nerf for Dash since you can’t risk landing them any more.

Unless they errata the wording of the pilot ability (which isn’t very likely at all) then it’s going to be very difficult to use Dash anywhere near as effectively as it is right now. Diving over obstacles is mostly a no-brainer with Dash as it stands (especially if he’s got Outrider and/or Trick Shot) but under the new rules if you misjudge that distance by a few millimetres then your 100-ish point, 4 dice gun isn’t shooting and that…is bad.

Sad times.

Does it mean the ‘Dash meta’ is over? Probably not initially but once people see that landing on debris and gas clouds is clearly terrible it reduces positional options for a ship that I’ve already heard people label as predictable. You could just ‘be better at the game’ I suppose but I think in time it’ll turn a lot of people off playing him. Plus, of course, the YT-2400 hasn’t been re-released in a 2.0 black box so he’s not going to be valid in the ‘standard’ format moving forwards. Then again, there are no ‘official’ OP plans as yet and TO’s (JARGON ALERT!!) will be free to pick whatever format they like for their own events.

Still, it was fun while it lasted and maybe I’m totally wrong and Dash is now the most powerful ship in the game. I doubt it though.

Don’t worry Dash ‘ol buddy, I’ll still play you!

I hear this in Dion’s voice. Anyone else hear that?!

There is, by way of AMG’s general phrasing of things, the possibility of a split coming. Referring to the update as ‘X-Wing 2.5’ infers long reaching changes and potentially (maybe? hopefully?!?!) revamped core sets some time in the future. But is there the option of those who hate the changes simply staying with the rules we have now?

I’ve seen several people say that they’re flat out ignoring these rules and to be honest, they’re obviously entitled to do so. Going by the printed rule set available from the official core set box, they’re playing the game as intended. In fact, new players who pick up the game and don’t actively seek out online rules updates or player communities will be completely in the dark about it.

There clearly are many people who are fine with the rules changes and will continue to play whatever the current rule set is.

What are my thoughts on all these changes? On the changes themselves I can’t really say just yet. There’s a LOT to process and clearly a lot of things are going to be affected. It’s not quite a totally new game but I believe it’s just about as big a jump from the current rules as it was going from 1.0 to 2.0. I’ll need to play games and test things out and that won’t be a true reflection until points are updated which looks to be at least 6 weeks away.

I’m still not very sure about just how necessary all these changes actually are. Is the game broken enough to need drastic fixing? I mean, there are some things which aren’t perfect (massive bids, final salvo) but my experience of the game over the last 4-ish years (ok, let’s say 3-ish years since 2.0 fixed a lot of 1.0 stuff) has been generally great.

Are AMG looking to bring in new players? I have to assume that’s a yes because without new players they won’t be able to keep the game going for the next 10 years that they have repeatedly mentioned. But I personally can’t see how massive changes from the printed physical rules in the core set make it overly accessible.

Imagine buying the game and a couple of expansions simply because it looks cool (and it does!) for, let’s say £100. You go home, read the rules and play out a couple of games with yourself or a friend while you get your head around it. You noticed a flyer at the store saying that there’s a group that get together to play on a certain day of the week and you eventually gather the courage to go down and find new people to play against and the rules are different. Not just a little bit but significantly. How is that a good player experience and introduction to the game? Is that going to encourage someone to spend more money (which, after all, has got to be AMG’s goal here, they are a business)?

Maybe I’m not seeing the full picture, maybe I’m naïve or stupid. I don’t know.

On one hand I have to applaud AMG. They appear to have a clear vision of what they want the game to be and are taking bold steps to take it there.

On the other hand, it’s starting to feel like changes are being made ‘just because’. Or that changing one thing meant breaking something else and so that needed changing too and the whole thing has sort of spiralled from there.

Also, perhaps if AMG were a bit more clear about what their ‘final form’ vision for X-Wing actually is then perhaps it would be easier to get on board with? I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of how AMG proliferate information (info coming from Facebook posts and Tweets are both fine but on streams for painting or other game systems? definitely not so fine) and at this point not having a section (i.e. something more than just the rules and points PDFs) on their website specifically for X-Wing (or even all the Star Wars games bundled in together) is laughable, verging on unforgivable.

I hate being negative on here so I’ll stop now. My intention here is definitely not to bring down people’s mood, cause more arguments or tear down or vilify AMG. Please understand that I’m just pouring out my thoughts and processing them in order to get to grips with what’s going on.

This feels like an important point to say that I am, still (maybe naively, hopefully not!) excited for the game. X-Wing is fun. I may not agree with everything that AMG are changing about the game but I DO believe that they aren’t intentionally trying to make it less fun for anyone and so while people may have their doubts, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and this particular pudding is still baking for the moment.

Ready to eat some time in 2022?

Before AMG’s stream I was putting together a post about what to fly next. That clearly got left by the wayside for the moment in light of all this news. In fact, the title of the blog (it’s Next Steps, to save you scrolling all the way back up!) was initially for that but I felt that it was still relevant when things pivoted and this started forming instead. I’m sure I’ll get to it in a few weeks time.

The Conclusion…

This week’s post has had a lot of thoughts, some reaction and is sprinkled with a little speculation.

Is there actually anything to conclude here though?

On this occasion, it does!

Not in the normal sense, no but I do want to finish on a positive note.

The game we love is changing.

We, as individuals and by extension, as a community have some choices to make. It can feel complicated but essentially it boils down to this: are we in or are we out?

And many of us have faced this before. When 2.0 was announced I wasn’t part of any Facebook groups or Discord servers so I didn’t experience what the wider reaction was but I did face a choice. Do I quit the game and sell up or am I in for 2.0? It wasn’t a simple choice with a not insignificant financial outlay needed for a core set and several conversion kits.

Obviously we (that is, Cai and I) decided we were in and have been ever since.

So what about ‘X-Wing 2.5’ as it’s being touted? Well, there’s no extra money needed, not so far at least.

So if AMG don’t stand to make any immediate financial gain or spike in sales then why are they doing it? It couldn’t be just because they simply think it makes a better game, could it? Could it?!

When you try to look at things objectively (and that’s not easy, given how deep we are into this game), trying to expand and improve the game (even if we don’t agree with the method at the moment) with additional game modes and changes in rules are a path to keeping the game alive and interesting in the long term. It happens in other games (Warhammer being the obvious example) which have lasted way longer than X-Wing has so far.

Whether AMG’s actions in the last 3 months may have either ‘saved’ the game or killed the game. Only time will tell I suppose.

Speaking for myself, I am still definitely in.

Am I here for the game? Yes. I didn’t understand the intricacies of 1.0 when I first got involved and have spent years learning the ins and outs since buying my first core set. New rules will take time to learn and longer to master but it’s all part of the mental challenge and stimulation that drew me in at the beginning. I may not be fast but I’m consistent.

Am I here for more than that? I’ve not been part of any gaming community before but what I’ve found in this one, both locally and online, has been incredible. From making friends at my local store to meeting new people at 500 player events to Discord chats across more time zones than I can count. It has been quite the ride.

What makes this game great is the people who play it. Sure the ships look cool and the rules might be fine but the best experiences I’ve had are more to do with the people than with the rules or format we played.

That’s what keeps me coming back.

So that’s it from me for 2021! I wish you a very happy and joy filled Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year!

The outro…

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